The Winnipeg Jets’ 2016-2017 disappointing season finally ended. While the extent of disappointment may be subjective from individual-to-individual dependent on expectations, fans without a single franchise playoff win prefer their seasons to carry some post-season excitement.
So, what went wrong? What went well? How do the Jets measure up against their competition? Which areas actually require improvement relative to others?
If your car breaks down, you need to know what is wrong with it prior to dropping cash to fix it. With that in mind, we continue our in-depth investigation on the Jets’ performance breaking down the team player-by-player from worst-to-best according to statistical impact, with some adjustments made by my own, personal analysis.
Up next: Ben Chiarot.
Ben Chiarot won a starting role over Mark Stuart at the start of the season. Cut in the mold of what most hockey types view as the future of shutdown defenders, Chiarot plays big, mean, and physical, but can also skate and has a hard shot.
Chiarot hit career highs in points with two goals and ten assists.
Goals Above Replacement
Goals Above Replacement data courtesy of @DTMAboutHeart.
Goals Above Replacement (GAR) combines multiple statistics in terms of one currency, allowing one to estimate a player’s overall impact. It is imperfect, as it combines many imperfect statistics, but it is also a severely useful tool.
GAR suggests that Chiarot is a fine #6/7 defender, but not someone you want to have any higher in your depth charts. His effectiveness derives almost completely from his defensive abilities, as he has only provided 1.57 goals above replacement over his entire career in offensive impact.
There are teams out there with worse #6 defenders, but just don’t suggest or get the idea that he’s more useful than Paul Postma or Toby Enstrom.
While some have hoped Chiarot would develop into a shutdown defender, his inability to improve the team’s shot and expected goal differentials shows why he should not move up the line-up past being a sheltered third pairing defender with some penalty kill utility.
The Jets are severely outshot and out-chanced with Chiarot on the ice, and the team does substantially better with him on the bench than they do on the ice. Most of the Jets’ defenders did much better away from Chiarot, with the exception of the Jets worst defensemen: Mark Stuart and Brian Strait.
Visual is for minutes played in 2015-16 and 2016-17 combined.
Microstatistics provide a window into the actions that players take that create the results they do in the previous sections. They allow us to see why Chiarot performs in the manner he does.
Chiarot is not useless; he’s merely just not overly useful. He can pass and he can shoot, but rarely is he contributing directly to offense.
In terms of getting out of the defensive zone, Chiarot had some of the Jets worst zone exit statistics. Of Chiarot’s 320 defensive zone touches, a slightly below average 71.6 per cent left the Jets’ defensive zone; however, the issue with Chiarot was that only 42.8 per cent of these exits were with possession of the puck. Ultimately, Chiarot defaults to “off the boards and out.” As noted previously, these plays carry a lot more negative impact in the long run than many, even experts, tend to believe.
A team low 50 per cent of Chiarot’s defensive zone exits ended up with the puck in the opposition’s defensive zone.
On the other end of the ice, Chiarot actually carried the puck into the offensive zone just about as often as the other regular left-hand shots: Josh Morrissey and Tobias Enstrom. But, only 4.1 per cent of Chiarot’s offensive zone entries resulted in a successful pass afterward.
Ultimately the Jets had their third lowest shots created per entry with Chiarot, with only Mark Stuart and Julian Melchiori performing worse.
In terms of defending the Jets’ own blue line, Chiarot was just below average across the board. He allowed 69 per cent of carry-in entries against to opponents that targeted him, while breaking up 5.5 per cent of entries targeted at him. Of those that carried-in against him, 39.1 per cent were able to complete a successful pass afterward.
Please support Corey Sznajder (@ShutDownLine) for his contributions in manually tracking microstatistics. He has a Patreon page where you can make a donation for his tireless work supporting the community. Also, give Ryan Stimson (@RK_Stimp) a follow.
For the past few years, Ben Chiarot has been used like a #5 defender, sitting fifth in total 5-on-5 ice time both seasons. While this would be more ice time than what is optimal, it is far from an egregious error. Chiarot is a NHL level defender, even if only marginally so.
Chiarot provides value through using his size to win puck battles, grind down opposition with his physical play, and clear the front of the net. That value is overrated, but it exists and has a purpose.
Ultimately, Chiarot exists as an improvement in Mark Stuart in the role that was previously occupied by him, simply by being able to skate, sitting above replacement level at evens, and not taking copious amount of penalties. There is the marginal issue, however, with Chiarot in that Paul Maurice has a preference to Chiarot over superior options, such as Postma.
If Tyler Myers returns healthy next season, the right side seems set with quality defenders in Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, and Tyler Myers. The left side unfortunately lacks the same depth with Josh Morrissey, Toby Enstrom, and Ben Chiarot as their regulars. While many Jet fans are hoping for a high-quality defender to slot between Morrissey and Enstrom, this would likely come with a heavy price tag. It may be wiser to find someone that slots between Enstrom and Chiarot, especially as there is an argument that Enstrom should have a slight bounce back next season.
All numbers courtesy of Corsica.hockey, @ShutdownLine, or @DTMAboutHeart unless otherwise noted. Please follow them all.
This series was intended to be a Monday/Wednesday/Friday post, but with unforeseen circumstances, I will be accelerating posts and changing the schedule to be Monday-Friday posts for the duration of the series.